Sometimes I ask myself: what would it be like when Sonea grew up? Will she be able to realize her dream of a job in the hospital or at the doctor? How much do I wish for an independent and self-determined life for them!
A few weeks ago, Mr. Sonnenschein and I went on a trip to Hohenroth near Gemünden am Main with the children and the plush on a leash.
"Yeah, yeah, we’re going to the EOS Children’s Village!" The children chatted excitedly (and of course meant SOS Children’s Villages) and probably thought something like an amusement park. What else should you associate with a children’s village?
I don’t have to explain to you out there what SOS Children’s Villages is all about. But did you also know that there are also three SOS village communities in addition to the children’s villages?
The Hohenroth village community is one of them and 162 villagers find their living and working space there. We visited this village community a few weeks ago and asked the SOS employees and residents extensively about their life and work in the village.
Although I had researched in advance and tried to get an idea of life in such a village community, it was difficult for me. So I was really looking forward to our little trip and to learning more.
We were counting on Monday morning, but we arrived the day before and simply let the village community work on us unfiltered. Although we were strangers, we were warmly welcomed. Again and again we met villagers and instead of a grumpy, suspicious look, which one likes to take when you enter foreign territory, we were showered with warm curiosity and felt absolutely welcome.
The villagers are used to visitors and the area is freely accessible to everyone. Around 150 groups of visitors visit the village community each year, so they were well prepared for our visit.
Mr. Kölbl, the head of the Hohenroth village community, took extensive time to accompany us through the 12 working areas of the village community and to give us a consistently positive impression of this thoroughly inclusive village life.
But let’s start from the beginning.
We start our tour in the metal workshop, where villagers Rüdiger visibly proudly show us things made in the workshop. The villagers manufacture many things independently and on their own. “Our workshop manager checks whether this is feasible or not. But we do a lot of things alone ”.
Like these lanterns that can now be bought at the local Christmas market.
Elaborate things and special designs, such as high-quality grills or artistic candle holders, are also created in the metal workshop. The employees are lost in their work. Every move sits. They appear motivated and independent in their work.
Our visit to the weaving mill is much quieter. And Katharina Bauert, head of the weaving mill, confirms this: "This work area is especially for older villagers and those who need a quiet work area."
In some cases, the villagers change their work areas and work in the morning in one and in the afternoon in another.
It is deeply impressive what great things come out of the hand looms: tablecloths, runners and even woolen blankets. "The demand is great," says Katharina Bauert proudly.
The outside temperatures are very fresh on that day and that’s why I feel particularly comfortable in our next stop, the warm bakery. Also striking is the exuberant happy atmosphere, which does not seem a bit fake. You get the impression that the villagers really enjoy their work and that they enjoy their work.
We are of course interested in how the working hours in the bakery are and how the working hours of the villagers are regulated. The external employees are already in the bakery at 4 a.m. The villagers do not start work until 8.30 a.m..
There is a reason for this, because "it would disturb the individual house communities if some residents left for work in the middle of the night," we are told.
During our tour we meet the two village elders. What is meant is not their age, which the residents are surprisingly proud of, but the duration of their village membership. Klaus and Arthur have been residents of the Hohenroth village community for 37 years.
In this context I am interested in what "criteria" a villager has to meet. "There must be a mental handicap and the person must be at least 18 years old" is the answer from Mr. Kölbl.
In between, the children are allowed to stroke the calves. And I think that’s a reasonable compensation for them that there is no exciting amusement park behind SOS Children’s Villages.
The dairy products are of DEMETER quality and are delivered in the Hohenroth area.
The seed workshop is also busy during our visit.
It is absolutely fascinating to see what the village community produces for self-sufficiency and for sale. A bit like a trip to a strange time in which the world is still in order. Only at noon do I notice that I haven’t risked a single glance at my cell phone in the meantime. Absolutely atypical for me.
Our next stop is the wood workshop. The children are immediately distracted and make the workshop unsafe with one of the wobbly ducks that are produced here.
Various wooden figures with different Difficulty levels are produced here. "We take great care to involve the residents and to go home in the evening with a good feeling," emphasizes Ms. Schleich, the head of the wood workshop.
The carpenter’s shop is located one floor below, mainly producing contract work, repair work and high-quality wooden boards made from precious woods such as walnut and fine woods.
Training is also provided here in the Hohenroth village community.
Production for the Christmas market is already in full swing. We meet some villagers like Daniel again and again on our tour. His good mood is contagious.
We all four feel very comfortable in the middle of the bustle of the village community.
While we stroll to the house community in which we are invited for lunch, Mr. Kölbl tells me about the plans of the village community "At some point a center for people with increased care needs is to be created here". He points to the old barns and cowsheds that are now empty.
Many villagers have been in the village community for over 30 years, so it is understandable that you think one step further and consider how you can shape the future of these people. Of course, funds are needed for such a project. Financial resources that are largely generated through donations.
The individual house communities in the village community are spacious. One would prefer to move in immediately, because the house radiates a cozy atmosphere of wellbeing.
On average, 8 to 9 villagers live together with their house parents in a house community. There are a total of 21 houses in the village community. As a rule, the house parents take care of light nursing activities, organize everyday life together and take care of the household.
In the house community that we visit on this day, there is not only the special situation that one of the residents has a birthday.
Resident Maren turns 53 on this day. Her friend Rainer, who lives in one of the other houses, is also visiting. The two have known each other since childhood and originally come from Bremen. “We met at the swimming course back then,” says Rainer, smiling. Maren and Rainer have also been living in the Hohenroth village community for over 30 years.
But it is also special that the house parents have only been living in the house community for two weeks, many things are new and with the time must first import.
“There are differences within every house. Every house shapes everyday life as it is best for everyone, ”Mr. Kölbl tells us.
But what interests me most of all is to learn from house mother Franziska how you can become a house parent in such a village community.
"My husband and I wanted a change. We both come from the nursing sector. At some point I googled for other communities and somehow I became aware of the Hohenroth village community ”.
Of course, as house parents you also have free time and vacation. There are even whole families with small children who live as house parents in the village community.
"For a while we had 20 children here in the village," remembers Mr. Kölbl.
There are so-called starting modules that make starting easier and impart basic knowledge. Most house parents have nursing training. Training and further education or studies are also possible during the time as house parents.
Because "it is important to us to enable the house parents to have an afterwards", emphasizes Mr. Kölbl.
During the meal the mood is exuberant and happy. Here, too, you immediately notice that everyone feels comfortable and at home. There are chicken with chips. Birthday child Maren wanted this as a feast. When it comes to eating, people talk about the fact that there is no deep fryer in the entire village. How good that Mr. Kölbl is also at the meal and can take care of this wish.
The residents talk about a cow that ran away in the morning. "It was certainly not properly connected! That has already happened to me, ”another resident comments on the incident.
And here again I find that the residents do their work very responsibly and really like it.
There are also projects with Bosch Rexroth that their trainees send to the Hohenroth village community once a year for the “Social Week”. After lunch, we meet one of these trainees in the candle workshop, which is our penultimate stage of the village visit.
Impressive works of art are cast here from beeswax. "The natural Fat layer of beeswax is called parina and takes half a year to ripen, ”I get explained, while I look fascinated at the ceiling, from which dozens of candles hang.
After a final round through the village shop, in which we buy a few products from the village community, such as honey and jam, we set off again for Cologne.
Inspired and full of impressions. "How did you like it?" I want to know from my children. "A little bit boring", is the honest answer of my son. "Did you notice anything about the people there?" I want to know.
Break. "The man just asked me if I was already going to school! It was really nice! ”And Sonea agrees“ super cool, yes! ”. I smile with satisfaction because I once again find that inclusion pays off. And for me, the Hohenroth village community is a perfect example of functioning inclusion.
It doesn’t take long for the children to hang in their straps asleep. Everything was very exciting and the many impressions have to be processed first.
"If the village community were a little closer to Cologne, I could imagine that it would be really good for Sonea later on," says Mr. Sunshine out of nowhere, speaking my thoughts out loud.
Of course, such a village community also needs financial means to survive. Because what is generated in the village community cannot be lived alone.
You can support these SOS village communities, such as the Hohenroth village community through donations or sponsorships. And after we were there and looked closely at all of this, we can say with complete conviction that it is worth supporting the work and existence of this village community.
This contribution was created in collaboration with SOS Children’s Villages. The content and opinions in this post are my own.
Dear Sonja Sonnenschein,
thank you so much for the wonderful report! It really is exactly as you describe it. My brother Georg – by the way so severely disabled that more inclusion would not be possible for him – has also lived there since the beginning of Hohenroth and is as satisfied as he can possibly be. The people who live and work here with the supervised do something extremely valuable and I am deeply grateful to them. We brothers and sisters and our families – scattered between Cologne, the Alpine foothills and the USA – are always very fond of Hohenroth, and the way there, no matter from where, doesn’t feel very far after a few years!
Kind regards from the edge of the Alps to the Rhine
I have just received your loving report from Hohenroth from a Hohenroth parent. During your visit you met our daughter Maren on her birthday in the village.
Thirty-five years ago, we searched for a facility for a year that roughly corresponded to our ideas, and by a large coincidence we heard about the village community that was emerging at the time a guest stay and decided to our relief that she wanted to go there again – 400km
from Bremen! The village has grown very dear to us in the many years of parent work. Hoenroth became a model for further engagements by SOS
Thank you for the beautiful pictures of the village.
Warm greetings from damp, cold Bremen
Dear Mrs. Keubler,
Your lines touched me very much. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. We took more pictures of the birthday child Maren. I will send you the pictures by email.
A really great idea. Something like that would be my dream for disabled people who are too weak for the public job market and for mentally ill people. There are more and more such projects for mentally handicapped people. Unfortunately enough other people who also need support fall through this grid.
Thanks for this article.
I still very much hope that at some point such differentiations will no longer be necessary and that everyone can find their place on the free labor market. Regardless of his chromosome numbers, his IQ or his physical and mental impairments.
A very interesting report! And great pictures. Unfortunately, very far from the idea of inclusion!
I’m really into integration (inclusion is not yet foreseeable in Germany today), but everything has its limits. The Hohenroth village community lives from the sense of community. The people there have a place where they can live AND feel comfortable. And that the work is still in the same place has certain advantages and disadvantages. Only then do I imagine how, within the framework of inclusion, such a resident lives completely alone in a multi-family house in a large city (in this case, Würzburg would be the next larger city), or maybe in two, in a small apartment, once a day a supervisor stops by and otherwise you would be alone. People with intellectual disabilities often need a little more impetus to do different things, e.g. Recreation. And things like that just work better in a large community. And I just always hope that the respective caregivers of those affected look closely at which living concept is suitable for whom. And Hohenroth is just the thing for people who need a little more space. But they are not locked up there either. The residents use public transport as a matter of course and go shopping in nearby places. The workshops have many external contacts (deliveries, purchase of goods, public relations, …). And what is more important: complete inclusion or happy people like Katharina met in Hohenroth? Kind regards, Uta
Thank you very much, dear Uta. That pretty much sums up my thoughts on it.
Yes that’s true. Strictly speaking, it is not an inclusion. But the village community is not an isolated area. Many villagers work externally and not within the village. All residents can move freely and outside the village area. In this respect, I think that there is definitely more inclusion within the village community than in many places outside.
Such a great place for many great people with even more great helpers! We have the Lautenbach village community, which also works and offers many creative work opportunities (weaving, gardening, stone workshop and much more) for people with disabilities. And the supervised here are just great!
It reads well. A really nice place as it seems. So far I only knew the SOS Children’s Village from Hören.
Oh, I was happy to see familiar faces again. I worked in Hohenroth for 5 years, first as an FSJ student and then as a family helper during my studies and I can say that it is exactly as you described it. Everything very warmly and the residents actually love their work and are very proud of it. In the meantime I have been working as a special needs teacher for many years, have got to know various other concepts and have to say that Hohenroth is a really good alternative form of living!
Thank you for your kind words. This contribution was also more than just a contribution for me. It was a matter of the heart after we were allowed to spend this day there.
I caught myself shining all over my face as I read the blog post.
What a wonderful place, even if it’s not an amusement park &# 128521;
Nice that it touched you &# 128578;
A great contribution! I always had an idea of what an SOS Children’s Village could be like, but it still seems to be very different. I think it’s great that there are such great opportunities to enable normal people to live a normal life. Thank you for taking a piece with us!
SOS Children’s Villages are once again different from the village communities. In contrast to the village communities, they are also not open to the public.
That reads really great! Great report, great pictures!
LG Katja and Co.
Yes, that’s Hohenroth. My parents were house parents there for a few years. My dad works in the carpentry and my grandma works in the seed. You have probably met her too.
We are there quite often. Whenever I visit grandfather and great-grandmother with my children. Looking at calves, goats and horses is always a must!
It is without a doubt a decelerated place!
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